★ The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★
★ To get The Sports Examiner by e-mail: sign up here! ★
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Ski superstar Shiffrin returns to slopes at Soelden opener
2. U.S. up to 139 medals, earns five Paris boxing spots in Santiago
3. World Cup final has Rugby titans New Zealand and South Africa
4. U.S. women, Colombia struggle to scoreless draw in Utah
5. Queensland Premier not interested in Commonwealth Games rescue
● The FIS Alpine World Cup season begins with the Soelden Giant Slaloms in Austria on Saturday and Sunday, with American star Mikaela Shiffrin looking for a third straight World Cup overall title and more records. Swiss Marco Odermatt has also won two World Cup titles in a row and wants to start on a third.
● The U.S. added five medals to its total on a light day at the Pan American Games in Chile, bringing its total to 139. In boxing, the Pan Am Games is a major Olympic qualifier and the American fighters earned five quota places for Paris, with four U.S. boxers in Friday’s finals.
● Saturday brings the final of the Rugby World Cup in France, with three-time winners South Africa and New Zealand meeting for the 106th time and the second time in a World Cup final. Both teams are 5-1 in the tournament, with New Zealand’s All Blacks having routed four of their six foes, while the Springboks have had four of their matches decided by five points or less.
● The U.S. women’s national team played to a 0-0 tie with no. 22 Colombia in a friendly in a very cold Sandy, Utah on Thursday night. The game was mostly played in the middle of the field, although the Americans had some chances, with Alex Morgan missing a first-half penalty. The two teams will play again in San Diego on Sunday.
● Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk informed Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate that the state is not interested in a rescue operation for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, abandoned by Victoria in July. The focus is on the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane.
● Panorama: Winter Games 2030 (French bid file moving right along) = Athletics (2: no change so far in Olympic Marathon Trials start time; what would a perfect track facility include?) = Football (2: Belgium, Germany and Netherlands bid for 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup confirmed; Infantino completely cleared by Swiss prosecutors) = Judo (Russian “neutrals” win four at Abi Dhabi Grand Slam) ●
Ski superstar Shiffrin returns to slopes at Soelden opener
The annual season-opener of the FIS Alpine World Cup, the giant slalom races on the Rettenbach Glacier at Soelden, Austria, comes this weekend, with defending World Cup champions Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) and Marco Odermatt (SUI) in action.
The amazing Shiffrin, now 28, set the all-time record for most career World Cup wins last season with 88 in all, passing Swede Ingemar Stenmark (86), and has won the last two seasonal World Cup titles and five in all. Moreover, she is the all-time leader for the most wins in the women’s Slalom (53) and Giant Slalom (21). She won 14 races last season; 12 more will get her to an astonishing 100.
But she has another impressive record ahead of her this season, for career World Cup medals won. Shiffrin sits in a tie for second with 138 total World Cup podiums (88-25-25) with Austria’s Marcel Hirscher (138 from 2007-19). But Stenmark is still on top with his career total of 155 (86-43-26) from 1973-89.
Shiffrin could also tie Austrian star Annemarie Moser-Proell (1969-80) for the most women’s seasonal title with six if she can win again this season; Hirscher is the all-time leader with eight. Of Moser-Proell, Shiffrin said, “She’s a complete trailblazer in ski racing and I would say that If I am able to match that title, or the six overalls, that would be probably the biggest accomplishment (of my career).”
Even with all these achievements, Shiffrin will face substantial challengers in Soelden, where she has won twice – in 2014 and 2021 – and won three silvers and one bronze.
Swede Sara Hector surprised with the Olympic gold in Beijing in 2022, trailed by Italian star Federica Brignone and Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami; Gut-Behrami was runner-up to Shiffrin in the World Cup Giant Slalom standings last season, ahead of Italy’s Marta Bassino and Slalom star Petra Vlhova (SVK).
Odermatt has won the last two seasonal titles, as well as the last two races at Soelden and was second in 2020, so he’s looking for his fourth race in a row there with a medal.
He will be challenged by familiar foes Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR). Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec and Alexis Pinturault (FRA). Kristoffersen finished second to Odermatt in the Giant Slalom standings the last two seasons, with 2022 Olympic silver medalist Kranjec third and Pinturault fifth. Pinturault is well familiar with Soelden, having won this race in 2016 and 2019. Kranjec has been second and third in the last two races in Soelden as well.
Norway’s Lucas Braathen won at Soelden in 2020 and was fourth in the 2021-22 Giant Slalom standings.
U.S. television coverage is only on the NBC Peacock streaming service, with the first run at 4 a.m. Eastern and second run at 7 a.m. Eastern on Saturday (women) and Sunday (men).
U.S. up to 139 medals, earns five Paris boxing spots in Santiago
A very light finals day at the XIX Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, with just 12 finals, and the first day at which the U.S. did not win an event.
The American squad did win five more medals (0-2-3) to increase its medal total to 139 (59-40-40), with the silvers in shooting from James Hall in the men’s 10 m Air Pistol and Lexi Lagan in the women’s 10 m Air Pistol. Rachel Tozier won the women’s Trap bronze.
There is a lot of interest in the boxing competition, which is a major Paris 2024 qualifier, with 30 total quota places available. Brazil was the big winner with eight and the U.S. obtained five, and Cuba three. The American finalists and quota winners – with the championship bouts on Friday – include
● Men/57 kg: Jahmal Harvey (the 2021 World Champion)
● Men/+92 kg: Joshua Edwards
● Women/50 kg: Jennifer Lozano
● Women/60 kg: Jajaira Gonzalez (bronze medal)
● Women/66 kg: Morelle McCane
The U.S. also got a bronze from Roscoe Hill in the men’s 51 kg class. (The women’s 60 kg class had four quota places available, so the bronze medalists earned a Paris 2024 slot.)
The medal table shows the U.S. with 139 in all, followed by Canada (83: 29-24-30), Mexico (70: 30-15-25) and Brazil (66: 14-25-27).
Friday’s schedule has the 13 gold-medal matches in boxing and only nine other events, and there are just nine finals on Saturday. The track & field competition begins on Sunday; there are 71 event finals coming on Saturday, 4 November!
Super-statistician Dr. Bill Mallon, co-founder of the authoritative Olympedia.org, contributed some more highlights about Canadian swim star Maggie Mac Neil, who won seven medals in swimming (5-1-1):
“‘Mac Neil’ is the proper spelling of her name, even though it’s unusual; we’ve confirmed it several ways. …
“On her 7 medals: it only ties her for 31st place at the PAG for most medals at a single Games, but mostly because back in the day both Gymnastics and Shooting had team events in almost all the various events.
“However, among swimmers, she is equal-4th all-time at the PAG for a single edition – behind Thiago Pereira (BRA) who won 8 in 2007 and 2011 (oddly both years he was 6-1-1), and Sylvia Poll (CRC), who won 8 in 1987.”
World Cup final has Rugby titans New Zealand and South Africa
The 2023 Rugby World Cup in France began way back on 8 September and after 47 matches, it will come down to the only two teams which have won the tournament three times: South Africa and New Zealand, at 3 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday.
The teams are ranked first and second, with defending Rugby World Cup champion, top-ranked South Africa, trying to defeat no. 2 New Zealand, which won the prior two World Cup trophies in 2011 and 2015. Amazingly, neither won their groups, but here they are playing for the championship:
New Zealand (5-1):
● lost to France, 27-13 (Pool A)
● defeated Namibia, 71-3 (Pool A)
● defeated Italy, 96-17 (Pool A)
● defeated Uruguay, 73-0 (Pool A)
● defeated Ireland, 28-24 (quarterfinals)
● defeated Argentina, 44-6 (semifinals)
South Africa (5-1):
● defeated Scotland, 18-3 (Pool B)
● defeated Romania, 76-0 (Pool B)
● lost to Ireland, 13-8 (Pool B)
● defeated Tonga, 49-18 (Pool B)
● defeated France, 29-28 (quarterfinals)
● defeated England, 16-15 (semifinals)
The game will be played at the 80,698-capacity Stade de France, which will also be the main stadium for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, and televised in the U.S. on CNBC and Peacock. The game will be replayed on NBC on Sunday at noon Eastern.
These two teams are old foes, with 105 prior matches and New Zealand’s All-Blacks leading the Springboks, 62-39, with four ties. They met once before in the Rugby World Cup final, in 1995, in Johannesburg (RSA), with the home team winning, 15-12 in extra time.
New Zealand’s Will Jordan is the tournament lead in tries with eight, with teammates Leicester Fainga’anuku and Damian McKenzie tied for third with five each. Cobus Reinach leads South Africa with four.
McKenzie and Richie Mo’unga are the top two overall scorers for the All Blacks, with 57 and 53 points. Manie Libbok leads South Africa with 22 total points and Handre Pollard has scored 21.
In the third-place game on Friday (3 p.m. Eastern time on Peacock), Argentina will meet England, with the English trying to win their fifth medal in the 10 editions of the World Cup (1-3-0 so far). Argentina was third in 2007 and lost the 2015 bronze-medal match to South Africa.
The tournament has been a winner at the gate, with 2,279,469 attendees through 46 matches, an average of 49,554. It’s already the second-most-attended World Cup ever, and will finish close behind the all-time record of 2,477,805 for the 2015 tournament in England. The 2027 edition will be played in Australia, and in the U.S. in 2031.
U.S. women, Colombia struggle to scoreless draw in Utah
Colombia’s women’s team, one of the darlings of the FIFA Women’s World Cup that was barely eliminated in the quarterfinals, held the U.S. women to a 0-0 tie in a friendly on a cold Thursday night in Sandy, Utah.
The no. 3-ranked U.S. came in having won two post-World Cup matches against South Africa in September, while 22nd-ranked Colombia – with many of their World Cup players – was playing its first match since their World Cup exit.
The first half saw lots of action between the boxes, but no serious chances in the first 20 minutes, and then a shot by U.S. striker Alex Morgan in the 25th from the middle of the box was saved by Colombian keeper Natalia Girado.
But off a corner kick in the 43rd minute, Colombia was called for a defender Daniela Arias foul in the box, sending Morgan to the penalty spot, but her shot hit the right post and she kicked the rebound over the goal. The game was scoreless at the half, with the U.S. taking four shots to one for Colombia, with possession even.
More of the same in the second half, but with more U.S. play in the Colombian half and a couple of Morgan shots in the first 20 minutes. In the 74th, U.S. substitute striker Ashley Hatch outran a defender to a ball in the box and launched a tricky, left-footed shot from the corner of the penalty area that had to be saved by Girado.
Colombia’s speed got to the U.S. lead passes and crosses to keep the game scoreless and its offense made only occasional forays into the U.S. end and did not threaten American keeper Alyssa Naeher seriously. The U.S. had a final chance as substitute forward Sophia Smith slammed a left-footed shot from close to the endline near the left side of the Colombian goal that was stopped by Girado, then got by her, hit the post, but rolled away at 95+1.
The game finished with the U.S. in 53% of possession and a 9-3 edge on shots, but was the third game this year where the Americans failed to score, including their last two matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The U.S. women are now 9-0-2 all-time vs. Colombia.
The teams will meet again on Sunday in San Diego, California at 5:30 p.m. Eastern (2:30 p.m. Pacific), to be shown on TNT, Max, Telemundo, Universo, Peacock and FDP Radio.
Queensland Premier not interested in Commonwealth Games rescue
“I’ve told him we do not have the time to do all the security arrangements that will be needed for his bid. Our priority, and we’ve got a long lead time, is in relation to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“And I’ve told Tom this, that I don’t think that bid can go forward without state and commonwealth approval because all the security arrangement are joint… there’s also all the planning and transport – it takes years, it doesn’t just happen overnight.”
That’s Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, speaking this week of a conversation with Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, who has been pushing for a rescue of the 2026 Commonwealth Games by Gold Coast, the successful host of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The 2026 Commonwealth Games was abandoned by July by Victoria, which had agreed to host the Games, and later agreed to pay a withdrawal fee of A$380 million (about $240 million U.S.). No other host has come forward, with Commonwealth Games Australia looking for another host there and saying a delay to 2027 would be acceptable.
Tate, the promotion-minded Mayor of Gold Coast, noted that the facilities used for 2018 are available and that the event could create a significant injection of tourism spending. But his efforts to get government support in Queensland appear to have failed, with the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games on the horizon.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Winter Games 2030 ● David Lappartient, the head of the French National Olympic Committee (CNOSF) told the FrancsJeux.com site that the bid by two French regions, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (AURA) and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur ( PACA), is proceeding well.
Although late into the game, a preliminary bid file was sent to the International Olympic Committee on 13 October, an updated proposal is due on 7 November and a meeting with the IOC Future Host Commission for the Winter Games could come on 21 November. That’s in advance of the next IOC Executive Board meeting, in Paris, beginning on 29 November. Said Lappartient, who is also the President of the Union Cycliste Internationale, “We are on time.”
No venue construction is expected and all of the sites except for long-track speed skating have been identified. No budget has been announced and Lappartient wants to be well prepared before saying anything:
“Candidates sometimes tend to minimize the cost in the application phase, and then people say that the Games cost more than expected. I am more in line with planning Games that cost as little as possible, but also announcing the most realistic budget possible.”
Sweden and Switzerland are also looking at a 2030 bid in earnest; a choice for “targeted dialogue” could come from the IOC Executive Board meeting in Paris.
● Athletics ● U.S. marathon star Sara Hall, fifth at the 2022 Worlds, posted the first notice about the 12 October discussions over the start time for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Orlando, Florida on 3 February 2024 on X (formerly Twitter):
“Everyone is willing to move earlier except [local organizing committee], [Greater Orlando Sports Commission]. Even @nbc is willing to broadcast live earlier.
“Counting on Orlando to protect the integrity of the event and put athletes’ safety first!”
The start time of noon Eastern is being criticized by athletes as being too late in the day due to expected hot and humid weather, and have asked for a 6 a.m. start time instead.
European Athletics chief executive Christian Milz (SUI) was asked about a perfect track & field facility at a conference on field surfaces and offered this dream scenario:
“Well, if this is for a ‘magic wand’ type of answer, I would like to see a rotating field-of-play so that spectators could see all field events irrespective of where they would be seated, or equipment such as high jump [standards] to be retractable from the floor, and a new system for the discus and hammer cages to be more ‘transparent.’
“Secondly, I’d love to see a long/triple jump take-off board with a red or green LED light that gives immediate feedback on whether the jump was valid or a foul.
“Finally, I’d like to see more of the technology already used in track construction to enhance the event production with lights shows and video-mapping that’s not currently affordable for all – and new technology that can also be used in daylight.”
● Football ● “The Royal Belgian Football Federation (RBFA), Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) and German Football Association (DFB) are excited to announce the official launch of their joint bid to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027. This announcement comes following many months of visible activity in laying the groundwork in preparation around today’s formal launch.”
Wednesday’s announcement confirms the leading European bid for the next Women’s World Cup. The U.S. and Mexico are jointly bidding for the event, as are Brazil and South Africa. Among the bidders, the U.S. and Germany have previously hosted the tournament.
Bid documents are due in December, with the final award to be made on 17 May 2024 by the FIFA Congress.
FIFA was notified that the Swiss Federal inquiry into meetings between President Gianni Infantino (SUI) and former Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber in 2016 has been closed.
A triumphal announcement included:
“Now it is official: FIFA President Gianni Infantino has always acted absolutely correctly and lawfully in his relations with the Swiss public prosecutors who were investigating the ‘old FIFA’! The new FIFA is today a clean, well run and robust organisation which operates in accordance with the highest ethical and governance standards. …
“The outcome of this investigation is obviously entirely unsurprising. The only surprising element is only the long time taken to reach such an obvious conclusion.”
Said Infantino: “This is a full and clear victory for me, for the new FIFA and for justice!
“It is now clear that the accusations against me were mere attempts by poor, envious and corrupt people to attack my reputation. If these people have some dignity left, they should at least have the decency and apologise for their actions and the damage caused.”
● Judo ● The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam stop on the IJF World Tour concluded in the UAE on Thursday, and while the official medal table showed Italy (3) and Canada (2) with the most wins, in fact, Russian fighters – competing as so-called “neutrals” – won four classes.
Co-World Champion Inal Tasoev won his eighth career Grand Slam gold in the +100 kg class; reigning World Champion Arman Adamian won the 100 kg class over 2021 Worlds silver medalist Aleksander Kukolj (SRB); David Karapetyan, 23, took his first Grand Slam title at 81 kg, and Marina Taimazova won the women’s 70 kg division for her third career Grand Slam title.
Russian “neutrals” also won five bronze medals.
The Italian and Canadian wins all came in the women’s classes, with Worlds bronze medalist Assunta Scutto winning at 48 kg, Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Odette Giuffrida taking the 52 kg gold, and Alice Bellandi, the Worlds bronze winner in 2023, taking the 78 kg class.
Canada got wins from 2021 World Champion Jessica Klimkait at 57 kg (over fellow Canadian and 2023 World Champion Christa Deguchi), and Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard at 63 kg.
For our updated, 850-event International Sports Calendar (no. 4) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!